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Review of J.P Clark's Poem- 'Fulani Cattle'

By Regina Alabere on Mon, 07/12/2015 - 12:41






John Pepper Clark Bekederemo was born on April 6, 1935 in Kiagbodo, Nigeria. He is one of Nigeria’s foremost anglophone dramatists and poets. In his plays, he infuses Western literary techniques with themes, images, and speech patterns drawn from traditional African theater. He was also a journalist, playwright, and scholar-critic who conducted research into traditional Ijo myths and legends and wrote essays on African poetry.


The poet feels guilty and emotional about the fate of the Fulani cattle. The whole poem is about the poet's sympathy for the animal’s death; the pathos roused by man's inhumanity to innocent cattles.

The poet digs deep into our consciousness, probing our inhumane nature against animals. If we could just take a moment to think how a Fulani cattle feels, to have a life that ends in death because you look good enough for excess meat. We wonder what kind of feelings these animals have and why they do not revolt; and we are aroused to ask many other questions of our own.

If only animals could express their emotions as humans, unfortunately they cannot. The speaker thinks of other ways to question why animals do not express their feelings and why a sense of rebellion is not expressed. As the poem progresses, we are also told many more things about the plight of the animals. We learn that they have been driven to this city from faraway places across the desert and forests. Our sympathy is aroused when the speaker reveals that these animals are being brought to the "hungry towns by the sea". The poet portrays them as courageous and mysterious creatures who live their ill-fated life in dignity.

None of the traditional European figurative use of words is employed (metaphors, irony and allusions) in the poem. Yet the images created by the poet in the course of the meditation are striking and deeply meaningful, as discussed above. The mention of "clan" suggests that the poet may be identified with the animals, most probably because he also belongs to a clan which has been oppressed for a long time. The mention of Niger is another clue which tells us that the poem is African, if not precisely Nigerian, where there is a long history of domination and discrimination of Africans.









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